Protests near Labrang Monastery

Protests near Labrang Monastery on March 14, 2008. (TCHRD)

On April 14-15, just days after a protest by monks in front of a group of Western journalists, a large number of armed police arrived at Labrang monastery in Sangchu (Chinese: Xiahe) county in Gannan, Gansu and took an unknown number of monks into custody.

According to one source, armed troops are now deployed “in every corner of the monastery” and have searched all of the monks’ quarters. In some of the monks’ cells, they smashed shrines and tore up images of the Dalai Lama, according to several sources. Details of what is happening in Labrang now are sketchy as the authorities are taking strong measures to prevent communication with the outside world, but it was possible to confirm that a number of monks have been detained and there are serious concerns for their welfare. Even some monks within the monastery are not clear about who has been detained, given the level of intimidation and military presence. (ICT report, Monks reveal concerns about Chinese allegations on weapons caches, views on Olympics)

Footage of the protests of Labrang monks to a group of foreign journalists on April 9 depicts one of the monks offering a khatag (a Tibetan white blessing scarf) to a journalist with one monk saying: “We sincerely thank you for coming here.” (Labrang Monks : April 9, 2008, Amdo Labrang, Xiahe Monks China Protest). One of the young monks, who was holding a large Tibetan flag, shouts: “We want human rights, we want freedom for Tibetans (Free Tibet). We can no longer bear to live under this repressive Chinese rule. They exercise repression in every part of Tibet and because of that we can no longer develop the Buddha dharma and without that the idea of world peace (cannot flourish).” In a phrase that indicates that Tibetans are leading a precarious existence on the brink of extinction, another monk commentsto the journalists that “Tibetans, especially the elderly, are like the setting sun over the peak of a mountain.” (ICT report, Monks reveal concerns about Chinese allegations on weapons caches, views on Olympics)

According to reliable reports, several thousand Tibetans, including many monks, have been detained in Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu in recent weeks. Many have been released after some days or weeks in custody, often on the payment of fines which can be as high as several thousand yuan (1000 yuan = US $143). China’s state media acknowledged the “surrender” or detention of nearly 4,000 Tibetans described as “rioters” in Lhasa and in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu province (Xinhua, April 9), stating that more than half of this total had been released, and more than 400 formally arrested on unspecified criminal charges.